International Court of Justice Judgment on Ukraine's Lawsuit Against Russia: Key Outcomes and Implications

17:47, 06.02.2024

On January 31, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced its decision in Ukraine's lawsuit against Russia regarding the financing of terrorism and violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 

Regarding the financing of terrorism, the court found Russia guilty only on one of the several points presented by the Ukrainian side. It ruled that Russia failed to fulfill its obligations to investigate cases of terrorism financing that it could have been aware of. 

Concerning racial discrimination, the court agreed only that Russia could not protect the rights of ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea, as the number of students learning in Ukrainian sharply declined there. 

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented that the decision is positive for Ukraine, stating, "The decision of the International Court of Justice leaves no doubt that Russia disregards international law." 

Summing up, experts from the ESCU note that the court analyzed only two conventions and did not assess Russia's behavior in accordance with other norms of international law. Therefore, it could not condemn aggression and had to resort to diplomatic means. 

  • The court also established that by recognizing the "DPR" and "LPR" as independent states and initiating the conflict against Ukraine, Russia violated its obligation to avoid escalating the dispute. This is a clear indication of who the aggressor is. 
  • It is officially established that Russia violated its obligations under the Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, while Ukraine did not violate anything. Politically, this is another argument exposing the absurdity of Russia's attempts to justify its full-scale invasion. 
  • Although the court did not support most of Ukraine's arguments regarding racial discrimination, it made significant conclusions that exposed Russia, affected its reputation, and helped build a further strategy for international engagement. 

In the context of the work of the ESCU, the decision has the following implications: 

  • Positive: It was officially recognized that Russia violated its obligations under two conventions. This means that all international companies supplying critical technologies and components to Russia are cooperating with a state that violates international legal norms on combating terrorism financing. 
  • Negative: The court concluded that financing terrorism does not include the transfer of means used for committing acts of terrorism, such as weapons or training camps. This is a dangerous thesis, allowing many states to potentially evade responsibility for planned terrorist acts. Moreover, it undermines efforts to increase the accountability of international corporations supplying weapons and their production facilities to terrorists (or state-sponsored terrorists). Therefore, new legal solutions need to be sought and intergovernmental coalitions created to change the "rules of the game" on the international stage.